Animal Therapy

Animal Therapy // December

During the cold winter day, it is even more difficult to leave our warm beds. These animals however have even more difficulty waking up as they just decide to skip winter, waking up again during spring! This week’s Animal Therapy edition is all about Hibernating Animals who have a whole other understanding of Eat, Sleep, Repeat…

Studies have shown that interacting with animals can increase people's level of the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin helps us feel happy and trusting. Oxytocin has some powerful effects for us in the body's ability to be in a state of readiness to heal, and also to grow new cells, so it predisposes us to an environment in our own bodies where we can be healthier.

Happy Animal Therapy Wednesday! Here's a dose of animal therapy pictures to break the week with a little peak!

Fat-Tailed Dwarf Lemurs

The definition of winter is a slightly bit different for the Fat-Tailed Dwarf Lemur. In Madagascar the coldest months are June and July with 30 degrees. During the coldest time of the year, the Fat-Tailed Dwarf Lemur climbs high up in a tree and hibernates there for about 7 months until there is food available again in rainy November. During its hibernation, the lemur lives off its fat tail to survive and so loses 50% of it body fat!


The Hedhehog is one of the best hibernators out there! Some only awaken when the winter is over. Depending on the weather, a Hedgehog can hibernate from a few weeks to 6 months. During hibernation, the heartbeat of a Hedgehog drops nearly 90%! If their temperature drops too low, the hibernating Hedgehog briefly awakens to heat up its body.

Ground Squirrel

Most species of Ground Squirrels hibernate as long as 9 months! Creating their own hibernating space, the Ground Squirrel digs underground tunnels with, are you ready, rooms. Yes, rooms. The squirrel doesn’t use just one room to satisfy all his needs—no, he has multiple rooms for different functions: bedroom, food storage room, and bathroom. Fascinating isn’t it?


During colder periods, male and worker bumblebees unfortunately die. However, the queen survives by hibernating! The queen bee hibernates in a hole in the soil, under leaf litter, or in rotten tree stumps. After the winter sleep of 6-8 months, the queen finds a new spot for her palace and creates whole new members for her monarchy. It sure isn’t easy being on the top…


The Woodfrog takes his winter-long nap a bit…dead. During hibernation, a Woodfrog stops breathing! Consequently, its heart stops beating and as the cold takes over, ice crystal forms in its blood. With the coming of the warmer season, the Woodfrog defrosts and its heart starts beating again. Talk about revival…

Common Box Turtle

Depending on the location and the subspecies, the Common Box Turtle hibernates between 77 and 154 days. During hibernation, its heartbeat drops and though the turtle can still breathe it doesn’t have to: oxygen also comes in through its skin! Compared to other hibernating animals, the Common Box Turtle’s sleep is not so deep. Very sensitive to its surroundings, the turtle can easily wake up during hibernation which can be very detrimental as it can even cause its death. Let’s hope that all Box Turtles have a safe, undisturbed environment during their winter-long nap.

Common Poorwill

The only known bird species that hibernates—the Common Poorwill. Picking a cosy spot under rotten logs or shallow stones, the Common Poorwill sleeps through the winter for up to 5 months! It can stay asleep for as long as 100 days and once awake, it takes a long 7 hours for the Poorwill to reach its normal temperature.


4 species of bears hibernate: the American Black Bear, Asiatic Black Bear, Brown Bear and the Polar Bear. By now we know that every animal has its own way of hibernating. The same goes for the Bear. Like other hibernators, the bear’s heartbeat also slows down and it can go for as long as 100 days without food or water. On the other hand, a hibernating bear can also wake up at any moment since its body temperature only drops a little. A pregnant bear can even deliver her hub during hibernation period!

Prairie Dog

Depending on the species, the Prairie Dog either goes into a topor (light hibernation) or hibernates. The White-Tailed Prairie Dog goes into a long winter sleep wheres the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog goes into a light sleep of just a few days. Only during extreme cold winter does the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog go into a full hibernation. It’s all about the tails isn’t it? Though it has a very misleading name, a Prairie Dog is in fact a rodent. Perhaps because its bark sounds similar to that of a dogs, it has been named after it…


The Bat is the only flying mammal, uses echolocation, and has been around since the Dinosaur Age. As if it wasn’t already cool enough, a Bat also hibernates! It goes into such a deep sleep that it appears dead—the heartbeat drops from 400 per minute to 25 beats per minute. During a Hold Your Breath contest, the Bat would undeniably be the winner. The bat’s breathing slows down to such an extent that it can take only one breath in an hour!